Why Americans Are Never Told Why

When Western media discusses terrorism against the West, such as 9/11, the motive is almost always left out, even when the terrorists state they are avenging longstanding Western violence in the Muslim world, reports Joe Lauria.

Lower Manhattan skyline after a Boeing 767 hit the World Trade Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. (Michael Foran, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
First Published on April 9, 2016

After a Russian commercial airliner was downed over Egypt’s Sinai last October [2015], Western media reported that the Islamic State bombing was retaliation against Russian airstrikes in Syria. The killing of 224 people, mostly Russian tourists on holiday, was matter-of-factly treated as an act of war by a fanatical group without an air force resorting to terrorism as a way to strike back.

Yet, Western militaries have killed infinitely more innocent civilians in the Middle East than Russia has. Then why won’t Western officials and media cite retaliation for that Western violence as a cause of terrorist attacks on New York, Paris and Brussels?

Instead, there’s a fierce determination not to make the same kinds of linkages that the press made so easily when it was Russia on the receiving end of terror. [See Consortium News’s “Obama Ignores Russian Terror Victims.”]

For example, throughout four hours of Sky News’ coverage of the July 7, 2005 attacks in London, only the briefest mention was made about a possible motive for that horrific assault on three Underground trains and a bus, killing 52 people. But the attacks came just two years after Britain’s participation in the murderous invasion of Iraq.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of the Iraq War’s architects, condemned the loss of innocent life in London and linked the attacks to a G-8 summit he’d opened that morning. A TV host then read and belittled a 10-second claim of responsibility from a self-proclaimed Al Qaeda affiliate in Germany saying that the Iraq invasion was to blame. There was no more discussion about it.

To explain why these attacks happen is not to condone or justify terrorist outrages against innocent civilians. It is simply a responsibility of journalism, especially when the “why” is no mystery. It was fully explained by Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of the four London suicide bombers. Though speaking for only a tiny fraction of Muslims, he said in a videotaped recording before the attack:

“Your democratically-elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters. Until we feel security you will be our targets and until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.”

The Islamic State published the following reason for carrying out last November’s [2015] Paris attacks:

“Let France and all nations following its path know that they will continue to be at the top of the target list for the Islamic State and that the scent of death will not leave their nostrils as long as they partake part in the crusader campaign … and boast about their war against Islam in France, and their strikes against Muslims in the lands of the Caliphate with their jets.”

Claiming It’s a State of Mind

Sept. 12, 2001: President George W. Bush, center, with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice looking over a brief together in the White House. (U.S. National Archives)

Ignoring such clear statements of intent, we are instead served bromides by the likes of State Department spokesman Mark Toner about the Brussels bombings, saying it is impossible “to get into the minds of those who carry out these attacks.”

Mind reading isn’t required, however. The Islamic State explicitly told us in a press statement why it did the Brussels attacks: “We promise black days for all crusader nations allied in their war against the Islamic State, in response to their aggressions against it.”

Yet, still struggling to explain why it happened, Toner said, “I think it reflects more of an effort to inflict on who they see as Western or Westerners … fear that they can carry out these kinds of attacks and to attempt to lash out.”

Toner ascribed the motive to a state of mind: “I don’t know if this is about establishing a caliphate beyond the territorial gains that they’ve tried to make in Iraq and Syria, but it’s another aspect of Daesh’s kind of warped ideology that they’re carrying out these attacks on Europe and elsewhere if they can. … Whether it’s the hopes or the dreams or the aspirations of a certain people never justifies violence.”

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After 9/11, President George W. Bush infamously said the U.S. was attacked because “they hate our freedoms.” It’s a perfect example of a Western view that ascribes motives to Easterners without allowing them to speak for themselves or taking them seriously when they do.

Explaining his motive behind 9/11, Osama bin Laden, in his Letter to America, expressed anger about U.S. troops stationed on Saudi soil. Bin Laden asked: “Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple: Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.” (Today the U.S. has dozens of bases in seven countries in the region.)

[The link in this article to bin Laden’s letter pointed to its publication by The Guardian. However, that document was removed by The Guardian last Wednesday, Nov. 15, with this explanation:

“The transcript published on our website had been widely shared on social media without the full context. Therefore we decided to take it down and direct readers instead to the news article that originally contextualised it.

The clips crossed over to X, formerly Twitter, in a supercut tweeted by the writer Yashar Ali, who wrote that “thousands” of the videos had proliferated across TikTok. Ali’s tweet itself racked up more than 11,000 retweets and 23.8m views.

“The TikToks are from people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Many of them say that reading the letter has opened their eyes, and they’ll never see geopolitical matters the same way again,” wrote Ali.

In a statement on Thursday, the White House said: ‘There is never a justification for spreading the repugnant, evil, and antisemitic lies that the leader of al Qaeda issued just after committing the worst terrorist attack in American history.'”

This is yet another example of suppressing the historical context of a current event that undermines the West’s interpretation. We saw it in Ukraine, when previously published news by mainstream  media of the 2014 U.S.-backed coup and the influence of neo-Nazis in Ukraine was airbrushed from the story in 2022 and made taboo to mention. This is like banning historians from mentioning the Versailles Treaty as one cause of World War II in the grossly misleading contention that it somehow justifies Nazi atrocities. Explaining the historical context of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine is what journalists are supposed to do, and what Consortium News has done, to explain what happened not to justify it.

Likewise, Consortium News has striven to provide the historical context for Israel’s attack on Gaza, as well as Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.  For saying that Oct. 7 did not “happen in a vacuum,” Israel hysterically call for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s resignation, a call that he angrily rejected. 

This is a new link to the full text of the Osama letter.  TikTok took down the letter and banned it as it went viral on its platform. The Guardian reported: “The hashtag #lettertoamerica had accrued more than 10m views by Thursday before the company blocked searches for it.”]

During a Republican presidential debate in 2008 Rudy Giuliani, who was New York mayor on 9/11, became incensed and demanded Ron Paul withdraw his remark that the U.S. was attacked because of U.S. violent interventions in Muslim countries.

“Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?” Paul said. “They attacked us because we have been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for ten years. I’m suggesting we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it.”

That’s an extraordinary statement,” responded Giuliani. “As someone who lived through the attack of Sept. 11, that we invited the attack, because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before. And I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11.”

The audience had never heard it either, as they heartily cheered Giuliani.

And I would ask the Congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that,” Giuliani said.

I believe very sincerely when the CIA teach and speak about blowback,” Paul responded. “If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don’t come here to attack us because we are rich and we are free. They attack us because we are over there.”

So why won’t Western officials and corporate media take the jihadists’ statements of intent at face value? Why won’t they really tell us why we are attacked?

It seems to be an effort to cover up a long and ever more intense history of Western military and political intervention in the Middle East and the violent reactions it provokes, reactions that put innocent Western lives at risk. Indirect Western culpability in these terrorist acts is routinely suppressed, let alone evidence of direct Western involvement with terrorism.

Some government officials and journalists might delude themselves into believing that Western intervention in the Middle East is an attempt to protect civilians and spread democracy to the region, instead of bringing chaos and death to further the West’s strategic and economic aims. Other officials must know better.

1920-1950: A Century of Intervention Begins

A few might know the mostly hidden history of duplicitous and often reckless Western actions in the Middle East. It is hidden only to most Westerners, however. So it is worth looking in considerable detail at this appalling record of interference in the lives of millions of Muslims and peoples of other faiths to appreciate the full weight it exerts on the region. It can help explain anti-Western anger that spurs a few radicals to commit atrocities in the West.

French diplomat Francois George-Picot, who along with British colonial officer Mark Sykes drew lines across a Middle East map of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, carving out states with boundaries that are nearly the same as they are today.

French diplomat Francois George-Picot and British colonial officer Mark Sykes drew lines across a Middle East map of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, carving out states with boundaries that are nearly the same today.

The history is an unbroken string of interventions from the end of the First World War until today. It began after the war when Britain and France double-crossed the Arabs on promised independence for aiding them in victory over the Ottoman Empire. The secret 1916 Sykes-Picot accord divided the region between the European powers behind the Arabs’ backs. London and Paris created artificial nations from Ottoman provinces to be controlled by their installed kings and rulers with direct intervention when necessary.

What has followed for 100 years has been continuous efforts by Britain and France, superseded by the United States after the Second World War, to manage Western dominance over a rebellious region.

The new Soviet government revealed the Sykes-Picot terms in November 1917 in Izvestia. When the war was over, the Arabs revolted against British and French duplicity. London and Paris then ruthlessly crushed the uprisings for independence.

France defeated a proclaimed Syrian government in a single day, July 24, 1920, at the Battle of Maysalun. Five years later there was a second Syrian revolt, replete with assassinations and sabotage, which took two years to suppress. If you walk through the souk in Old Damascus and look up at the corrugated iron roof you see tiny specks of daylight peeking through. Those are bullet holes from French war planes that massacred civilians below.

Britain put down a series of independence revolts in Iraq between 1920 and 1922, first with 100,000 British and Indian troops and then mostly with the first use of air power in counterinsurgency. Thousands of Arabs were killed. Britain also helped its installed King Abdullah put down rebellions in Jordan in 1921 and 1923.

London then faced an Arab revolt in Palestine lasting from 1936 to 1939, which it brutally crushed, killing about 4,000 Arabs. The next decade, Israeli terrorists drove the British out of Palestine in 1947, one of the rare instances when terrorists attained their political goals.

Germany and Italy, late to the Empire game, were next to invade North Africa and the Middle East at the start of the Second World War. They were driven out by British imperial forces (largely Indian) with U.S. help. Britain invaded and defeated nominally independent Iraq, which had sided with the Axis. With the Soviet Union, Britain also invaded and occupied Iran.

After the war, the U.S. assumed regional dominance under the guise of fending off Soviet regional influence. Just three years after Syrian independence from France, the two-year old Central Intelligence Agency engineered a Syrian coup in 1949 against a democratic, secular government. Why? Because it had balked at approving a Saudi pipeline plan that the U.S. favored. Washington installed Husni al-Za’im, a military dictator, who approved the plan.

1950s: Syria Then and Now

Before the major invasion and air wars in Iraq and Libya of the past 15 years, the 1950s was the era of America’s most frequent, and mostly covert, involvement in the Middle East. The first coup of the Central Intelligence Agency was in Syria in March 1949. The Eisenhower administration then wanted to contain both Soviet influence and Arab nationalism, which revived the quest for an independent Arab nation. After a series of coups and counter-coups, Syria returned to democracy in 1955, leaning towards the Soviets.

President Dwight Eisenhower

President Dwight Eisenhower

A 1957 Eisenhower administration coup attempt in Syria, in which Jordan and Iraq were to invade the country after manufacturing a pretext, went horribly wrong, provoking a crisis that spun out of Washington’s control and brought the U.S. and Soviets to the brink of war.

Turkey put 50,000 troops on the Syrian border, threatening to invade. Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev threatened Turkey with an implied nuclear attack and the U.S. got Ankara to back off. This sounds eerily familiar to what happened in March 2015 month when Turkey again threatened to invade Syria and the U.S. put on the brakes. The main difference is that Saudi Arabia in 1957 was opposed to the invasion of Syria, while it was ready to join it last month [March 2016]. [See Consortium NewsRisking Nuclear War for Al Qaeda?]

In the 1950s, the U.S. also began its association with Islamic religious extremism to counter Soviet influence and contain secular Arab nationalism. “We should do everything possible to stress the ‘holy war’ aspect,” President Eisenhower told his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. After the Cold War, religious extremists, some still tied to the West, became themselves the excuse for U.S. intervention. For example, the U.S. backed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, some of whom morphed into al-Qaeda, and more recently jihadist groups in Syria to one again try to overthrow a Syrian government. 

Despite U.S. regional ascendance in the 1950s, Britain and France weren’t through. In 1953, an MI6-CIA coup in Iran replaced a democracy with a restored monarchy when Mohammed Mossadegh, the elected prime minister, was overthrown after seeking to nationalize British-controlled Iranian oil. Britain had discovered oil in Iran in 1908, spurring deeper interest in the region.

Three years later Britain and France combined with Israel to attack Egypt in 1956 when President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had taken over from the ousted British-backed King Farouk, moved to nationalize the Suez Canal. The U.S. stopped that operation, too, denying Britain emergency oil supplies and access to the International Monetary Fund if the Brits didn’t back down.

Suez represented the final shift in external power in the Middle East from the U.K. to the U.S. But Washington couldn’t (or wouldn’t) stop Britain from trying and failing to assassinate Nasser, who had sparked the Arab nationalist movement.

In 1958, the U.S. landed 14,000 Marines in Lebanon to prop up President Camille Chamoun after a civil conflict broke out against Chamoun’s intention to change the constitution and run for reelection. The rebellion was minimally supported by the United Arab Republic, the 1958-61 union between Egypt and Syria. It was the first U.S. invasion of an Arab country, excluding the U.S.’s World War II intervention in North Africa.

1960 to 2003: Interventions Post Colonial

The 1954-1962 Algerian rebellion against French colonialism, which Paris brutally tried to suppress, included Algerian acts of terrorism. Exhibiting the same cluelessness displayed by State Department spokesman Toner, the French attitude towards the uprising was expressed by an exasperated French officer in film The Battle of Algiers when he exclaimed, “What do you people want?”

From the 1960s to the 1980s, U.S. intervention in the region was mostly restricted to military support for Israel in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars. From an Arab perspective that  represented a major U.S. commitment to protect Israeli colonialism.

The Soviet Union also intervened directly in the 1967-70 War of Attrition between Egypt and Israel when Nasser went to Moscow to say he’d resign and have a pro-Western leader take over if the Russians didn’t come to his aid. In backing Nasser, the Soviets lost 58 men.

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The Soviets were also involved in the region to varying degrees and times throughout the Cold War, giving aid to Palestinians, Nasser’s Egypt, Syria, Saddam’s Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya — all countries and leaders charting an independent course from the West.

During the 1970 Black September conflict between Jordan and Palestinian guerrillas, the U.S. had Marines poised to embark in Haifa and ready to secure Amman airport when Jordan repelled a Syrian invasion in support of the Palestinians.

In the 1980s the U.S. backed Saddam Hussein in his brutal, eight-year war with Iran, supplying him with arms, intelligence and chemical weapons, which he did not hesitate to use against Iranians and Kurds. President Ronald Reagan also bombed Libya in 1986 after accusing it without conclusive evidence of a Berlin bombing ten days earlier that killed a U.S. soldier.

The U.S. returned more directly to the region with a vengeance in the 1991 Gulf War, burying alive surrendering Iraqi troops with bulldozers; shooting thousands of soldiers in the back as they retreated on the Highway of Death, and calling for uprisings in the Shia south and Kurdish north and then leaving them to Saddam’s revenge.

April 18,1991: Demolished vehicles line Highway 80, also known as the “Highway of Death”, the route fleeing Iraqi forces took as they retreated fom Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. (Joe Coleman, Air Force Magazine, Wikimedia Commons)

Iraq never recovered fully from the devastation, being crushed for 12 years under U.N. and U.S. sanctions that then U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright admitted contributed to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children. But she said it was “worth it.”

Iraq’s sanctions only ended after the 2003 full-scale U.S. and British invasion of the sovereign Arab nation, an assault justified by bogus claims about Iraq hiding stockpiles of WMD that could be shared with Al Qaeda. The invasion killed hundreds of thousands of people and left Iraq devastated. The invasion also unleashed a civil war and gave rise to the terrorist group, the Islamic State in Iraq, which later merged with terrorists in Syria to become ISIS.

Throughout this century of intervention, Britain, France and the U.S. managed the region through strong alliances with dictators or monarchs who had no regard for democratic rights. But when those autocrats became expendable, such as Saddam Hussein had, they are disposed of.

The Biggest Invasion Yet

While most Americans may be unaware of this long history of accumulated humiliation of Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities in the region — and the resulting hatred of the West — they can’t ignore the Iraq invasion, the largest by the West in the region, excluding World War II. Nor is the public unaware of the 2011 intervention in Libya, and the chaos that has resulted. And yet no link is made between these disasters and terror attacks on the West.

The secular strongmen of Iraq, Libya and Syria were targeted because they dared to be independent of Western hegemony — not because of their awful human rights records. The proof is that Saudi Arabia’s and Israel’s human rights records also are appalling, but the U.S. still staunchly stands by these “allies.”

During the so-called Arab Spring, when Bahrainis demanded democracy in that island kingdom, the U.S. mostly looked the other way as they were crushed by a combined force of the nation’s monarchy and Saudi troops. Washington also clung to Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak until the bitter end.

However, under the pretext of protecting the Libyan population, the U.S. and NATO implemented a bloody “regime change” in Libya leading to anarchy, another failed state and the creation of one more ISIS enclave. For the past five years, the West and its Gulf allies have fueled the civil war in Syria, contributing to another humanitarian disaster.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The West’s motive for all this meddling is often pinned on oil. But obedience is a strong factor. Hans Morgenthau wrote in Politics Among Nations (1968), that the urge of empires to expand “will not be satisfied so long as there remains anywhere a possible object of domination – a politically organized group of men which by its very independence challenges the conqueror’s lust for power.”

Tariq Ali, in his 2003 book Bush in Babylon, writes about Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman general responsible for much of the conquest of Britain in the First Century: “On one of his visits to the outer reaches of [Britain], Agricola looked in the direction of Ireland and asked a colleague why it remained unoccupied. Because, came the reply, it consisted of uncultivable bog lands and was inhabited by very primitive tribes. What could it possibly have to offer the great Empire? The unfortunate man was sternly admonished. Economic gain isn’t all. Far more important is the example provided by an unoccupied country. It may be backward, but it is still free.”

Cloaking Motives

Little of this long history of Western manipulation, deceit and brutality in the Middle East is known to Americans because U.S. media almost never invokes it to explain Arab and Iranian attitudes towards the West.

Muslims remember this history, however. I know Arabs who are still infuriated by the Sykes-Picot backstabbing, let alone the most recent depredations. Indeed fanatics like the Islamic State are still ticked off about the Crusades, a much earlier round of Western intervention. In some ways it’s surprising, and welcomed, that only the tiniest fraction of Muslims has turned to terrorism.

Billionaire and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Trump: ‘what the hell is going on.’

Nevertheless, Islamophobes like Donald Trump want to keep all Muslims out of the U.S. until he figures out “what the hell is going on.” He says Muslims have a “deep hatred” of Americans. But he won’t figure it out because he’s ignoring the main cause of that hatred – the past century of intervention, topped by the most recent Western atrocities in Iraq and Libya.

Stripping out the political and historical motives renders terrorists as nothing more than madmen fueled by irrational hate of a benevolent West that says it only wants to help them. They hate us simply because we are Western, according to people like Toner, and not because we’ve done anything to them.

Israel and its Western enablers likewise bury the history of Israel’s ethnic cleansing and piecemeal conquest of Palestine so they can dismiss Palestinians who turn to terrorism as motivated only by hatred of Jews for being Jews.

I’ve asked several Israelis why Palestinians tend to hate them. The more educated the Israeli the more likely the answer was because of the history of how Israel was established and how it continues to rule. The less educated my respondent, the more likely I heard that they hate us simply because we are Jews.

There’s no excuse for terrorism. But there is a practical way to curb it: end the current interventions and occupations and plan no more.

The Psychology of Terror

Of course, anger at the West’s history of exploiting Muslim lands isn’t the only motivation for terrorism. There are emotional and group pressures that push some over the line to strap on bombs and blow up innocent people around them. Thankfully, it takes a very unusual type of individual to react to this ugly history with ugly acts of terror.

Money also plays a part. We’ve seen waves of defections as ISIS has recently cut fighters’ pay in half. Anger at Western-installed and propped-up local rulers who oppress their people on behalf of the West is another motive. Extremist preachers, especially Saudi Wahhabis, also share the blame as they inspire terrorism, usually against Shia.

President Obama and King Salman Arabia stand at attention during the U.S. national anthem as the First Lady stands in the background with other officials on Jan. 27, 2015, at the start of Obama’s State Visit to Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obama and King Salman, Jan. 27, 2015, at Obama’s State Visit to Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). 

Wading into the psychology of why someone turns to terrorism is an unenviable task. The official Western view is that Islamist extremists merely hate modernity and secularism. That might be their motive in wanting to backwardly transform their own societies by removing Western influence. But it’s not what they say when they claim responsibility for striking inside the West.

To ignore their words and dismiss their violent reaction to the long and ongoing history of Western intervention may shield Americans and Europeans from their partial responsibility for these atrocities. But it also provides cover for the continuing interventions, which in turn will surely produce more terrorism.

Rather than looking at the problem objectively – and self-critically – the West ludicrously cloaks its own violence as an effort to spread democracy (which never seems to materialize) or protect civilians (who are endangered instead). To admit any connection between the sordid historical record and anti-Western terrorism would be to admit culpability and the price that the West is paying for its dominance.

Worse still, letting terrorists be perceived as simply madmen without a cause allows the terrorist response to become justification for further military action. This is precisely what the Bush administration did after 9/11, falsely seeking to connect the attacks to the Iraqi government.

By contrast, connecting terrorism to Western intervention could spark a serious self-examination of the West’s behavior in the region leading to a possible retreat and even an end of this external dominance. But that is clearly something policymakers in Washington, London and Paris – and their subservient media – aren’t prepared to do.

This article was first published in Consortium News on April 9, 2016.

[For more on this topic, see Consortium  NewsWhy Many Muslims Hate the West” and “Muslim Memories of Western Imperialism.”]

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette, the London Daily Mail and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He is the author of two books, A Political Odyssey, with Sen. Mike Gravel, foreword by Daniel Ellsberg; and How I Lost By Hillary Clinton, foreword by Julian Assange. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe

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23 comments for “Why Americans Are Never Told Why

  1. September 14, 2023 at 10:59

    Great contextual article which illustrates certain unflattering historical realities.

    Hubris is the hallmark of United States’ policies, first abroad but increasingly internally as well. It’s a tradition inherited from our British and French founders and oddly bequeathed to us almost immediately after we were the first subject people to rebel against it. Our hypocritical Declaration of Independence carefully lists the arguments now applicable against us yet, as a people, we are mystified at the predictable reactions of those whom we exploit, attack and murder. It’s as though a robber-rapist who’d invaded a home sued the owners because they sought to impede his rampage, honestly feeling that he was in the right because he’d bruised his fists. The problem is, of course, the combination of ruthless predator politicians and purported journalists who cover up each and every one of their misdeeds instead of bringing them to light, and of a lazy, easily manipulable electorate bereft of memory, reacting only to induced fears. Not a very positive perspective as we dance on the brink of nuclear annihilation having finally picked on victims more than capable of defending themselves.

  2. Coleen Rowley
    September 13, 2023 at 20:43

    Exactly! This is why (as MLK Jr. said), “violence begets violence.” And wars beget wars.

    “Rather than looking at the problem objectively – and self-critically – the West ludicrously cloaks its own violence as an effort to spread democracy (which never seems to materialize) or protect civilians (who are endangered instead). To admit any connection between the sordid historical record and anti-Western terrorism would be to admit culpability and the price that the West is paying for its dominance.” –Joe Lauria

    Meanwhile with the hundreds of “mass shooting” type incidents constantly occurring domestically in recent years, it seems media coverage in the U.S. demands its news reporters to always conclude their reports of mass killing domestic terrorism incidents by adding that police or the FBI are searching for “the motive.” But the senseless mass killings are, by definition, without any intelligble motive except the individual shooters’ various senseless hatreds or simple personal problems. What no one will say is that inciting hatred via decades-long war propaganda by U.S. leaders to this great degree in order to foment and obtain/sustain public support for its (perpetual) wars and military interventions abroad tends to eventually migrate home. Militarism destabilizes the U.S. domestically, making those most emotionally vulnerable to hatred to follow the example of U.S. warhawks, to come to accept the notion that one’s personal problems can be solved by shooting and murdering others in the same way as the warhawk leaders promote the national belief that the country’s problems can be solved by war on other countries.

  3. Paula
    September 13, 2023 at 16:46

    “The West’s motive for all this meddling is often pinned on oil. But obedience is a strong factor. Hans Morgenthau wrote in Politics Among Nations (1968), that the urge of empires to expand “will not be satisfied so long as there remains anywhere a possible object of domination – a politically organized group of men which by its very independence challenges the conqueror’s lust for power.”

    This somehow reminds me of many male/female relationships.

  4. Joseph Tracy
    September 13, 2023 at 13:01

    When patriotic self aggrandizement and surrogate identity as the greatest super power and force for personal freedom in human history competes with a far less flattering history of violent colonialism there is a kind of consistent and predictable popular response. At first the flag waving wins the day, sometimes leading to orgasmic outbursts of pleasure as the first bombs drop. Only when many lives are lost, the costs multiply and the particular project is failing will voters realize the folly of spending on war what could be spent to make life better at home or simply left with taxpayers and the popularity of the effort go into steep decline.. But the dignity of the war boosters must be preserved and in retrospect all the attacks become noble acts of self defense and the advance of freedom. Not particularly clever , but it works.
    Thanks Joe for the solid research to summarize this sordid regional history and the breathtaking arrogance of colonialism.

  5. jon nelms
    September 13, 2023 at 12:52

    the reason for not acknowledging the devastating effects of U.S. imperialism on people whose only crime is to not be one of us and to have something we want is because it would be very unpatriotic not only to accept responsibility, but to realize we are not better than everyone else, and that our country doesn’t deserve our unconditional loyalty’

  6. John Zeigler
    September 13, 2023 at 11:00

    Ron Paul was exactly right. A CIA officer was accurately quoted as saying the 9/11 attack was blowback for our meddling in the Middle East. From Vietnam on I have consistently asked my US Senators and Representatives why we send our troops halfway around the world to kill people we do not even know, when our own people at home are suffering from a paucity of programs to support human need and suffering, and to improve the lives of our own diverse citizenry. I have never received a reply from any of them over the fifty-plus years I have been asking.

    • Charles E. Carroll
      September 13, 2023 at 19:02

      And, you wont get an answer. As soon as they are elected the only concern is to get reelected,

  7. vinnieoh
    September 13, 2023 at 10:52

    A very thoughtful and thought-provoking piece Mr. Lauria.

    I’m going to put a somewhat different twist though on your conclusion:

    “By contrast, connecting terrorism to Western intervention could spark a serious self-examination of the West’s behavior in the region leading to a possible retreat and even an end of this external dominance.”

    Though our leaders know the truth, they do not speak the truth to their citizens as you explain above. I have long speculated though the reason why the aggressive violence continues is because, as the saying goes – “Payback is (going to be) a bitch.” My mother-in-law and I were discussing just yesterday our amazement that the Vietnamese have never enacted any reprisals of any kind, and the US has surely caused more death, destruction, and poisoning there than in any other theater during my lifetime. And we certainly stigmatized the Vietnamese and Asians generally as “the other,” not like us, and below us civilizationally.

    It is an easy thing to believe that most Americans are just too poorly informed, propagandized, too dense, or just to worn out trying to get ahead, to know or care about the truth. But I don’t entirely buy that. I believe that a much larger percentage of the population does understand, does know, and more importantly, does approve of the aggressive violence of our national foreign ambitions.

    Capitalism as it is practiced in the US is predatory; it has always been that way, sometimes more and sometimes less, but today its predatory tone is increasing. Whole generations of Americans have internalized that reality and have become more aggressively predatory toward each other and to all and sundry – it seems a necessary survival reaction.

    And yet recruitment into US armed forces continues to lag, perhaps slowing the pace of intervention, but definitely prompting a frenzied effort to create autonomous weapons and AI. These programs do not proceed quickly enough to support the immediate “need” of shoring up continued US dominance in the face of a world of nations choosing instead to align with US competitors.

    So, here’s the twist: If our leaders actually decided to come clean and admit the totality of death and destruction the US is responsible for since the end of the second world war and also state plainly “that is why they hate us,” and further hint that payback might be a bitch, a quite sizable portion of this nation just might rally around a final call to arms and “Victory or Death!”

    • Robert Crosman
      September 13, 2023 at 14:32

      The Vietnamese WON the Vietnam war, and so they didn’t feel the need to avenge it. Instead they recognized the usefulness of the U.S. as a market for their products, and a potential ally against China, which is the actual military threat to Vietnam, not an empire half way round the world. If they’d declared a vendetta against the U.S., they’d have been locked in a vicious circle of tit-for-tat which could only have harmed them, and retarded their progress. As it is, they have a booming economy, and are on the verge of being our ally in SE Asia.

      • vinnieoh
        September 14, 2023 at 09:08

        You’re absolutely correct, and I understood those truths even as I posted that. However, it still remains for me noteworthy of contemplation that there was never ANY retaliation for revenge. It is not widely understood by most Americans the historical adversarial relationship between Vietnam and China. I only became aware of it in the opening chapters of Neil Sheehan’s “A Bright Shining Lie.”

      • bryce
        September 14, 2023 at 18:27

        Every morning in northwest Viet Nam, hundreds of Viet vendors bring their products across the Red river into China, but return with nothing.. Without China, they have no market.. Much of Viet Nam’s economy has always been boosted by the local Chinese, and some american carpetbagger will not alter that historical dynamic..

  8. Vera Gottlieb
    September 13, 2023 at 10:09

    Just keep wearing the blinders and keep believing in your exceptionalism.

  9. J Anthony
    September 13, 2023 at 08:31

    It is maddening that so many USAmericans still cannot, or will not, acknowledge the historical context and repercussions of the government’s foreign policy of the last 100+ years, be it in the ME or on our southern border.

    • Valerie
      September 13, 2023 at 10:07

      It’s sad too J Anthony, that the populace cannot see past the propaganda forced on them by the rhetoric of the PTB.

  10. firstpersoninfinite
    September 13, 2023 at 00:24

    One must also consider the fact that the need for domination in the leaders of great empires means that “collateral damage” inside the Homeland is quite acceptable to those needing to dominate. Why would such leaders differentiate between victims? The suffering of the citizenry you rule over is the mea culpa they must pay for the unattained greatness that awaits. Those who believe it behooves them to tear down the world never imagine they are tearing themselves down with it. A single moment of unshaded sunlight in sight of those you have defeated without any possible necessity is much better than Heaven, and a sure divergence from Hell. Well done overview of a salacious history, Joe Lauria. It is no small thing to get such matters right and make them clear for others.

  11. September 13, 2023 at 00:17

    What a rare and exciting treat to hear some real history for a change. Thank you, Mr. Lauria!

  12. Drew Hunkins
    September 12, 2023 at 22:05

    Instead of emphasizing why were were attacked, some (much?) of the left and others choose to emphasize silly conspiracy theories about bombs being planted in the Twin Towers and Building 7. These folks theorize that operatives were actually running around Lower Manhattan just prior to 9/11 planting incendiary devices in buildings; unbeknownst to all the security personnel and law enforcement!

    I sometimes wonder if this conspiracy is part of larger distraction conspiracy to deflect from exactly why the Arab and Muslim world attacked the U.S. on September 11th. Of course, they attacked us bc of our unrelenting diplomatic, military, and financial support for Israel; our military bases in Saudi Arabia; and our draconian sanctions against the innocent civilians of Iraq. They also cited as a reason for 9/11 Israel’s grotesque 1982 bombing of the high rise buildings in Lebanon.

    • Steve
      September 13, 2023 at 04:16

      Drew, when you scratch the surface of 911, you find lots of inconsistencies in the official narrative and that’s probably because of unclear CIA involvement. Yet again, these inconsistencies are not being aired or discussed and are actively being suppressed. Conspiracy theory ? Maybe, but we’ll never be allowed to honestly and openly investigate.

      • Riva Enteen
        September 13, 2023 at 11:33

        “Inside job” can mean the US knew it was going to happen but didn’t stop it. There’s LOT of evidence of that. It’s not just a conspiracy theory.

        • Arch Stanton
          September 15, 2023 at 12:55

          The 5 mentioned in the article below were all deported and subsequently appeared on Israeli TV…


      • JonnyJames
        September 13, 2023 at 13:48

        Exactly. The JFK assassination official story cannot be questioned either, no matter how irrational. Same with the “9/11” attacks. You will be smeared and called nasty names if you dare question the official story.

        One thing is certain: the official narratives are irrational, and impossible. We will likely never know who was really behind the attacks. We can only speculate about the mountain of circumstantial evidence, motives, capabilities and opportunity. Much has been written about this: Richard Gage (Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth) Peter Kuznick (historian, worked with Oliver Stone on the Untold History of the US documentary) etc. and others who have expertise on these issues.

    • September 13, 2023 at 09:50

      I think you are mischaracterizing, may be inadvertently. “Arab and Muslim world” did not attack us. Mr. Lauria was very clear that it is a wonder so few people turn to terrorism considering centuries of atrocities that the “civilized” west has imparted on the muslim world.

      This line says it all; “The audience had never heard it either, as they heartily cheered Giuliani.” I believe, deep down, many Americans don’t want to know the truth because if they did, they would have to acknowledge their own responsibility in these atrocities. After all we love to tout our form of “democracy”, don’t we?

    • Jeff Harrison
      September 13, 2023 at 13:55

      Whenever I come across someone saying “the left” says or does this that or some other thing, I immediately dismiss them as idiots. For example, most of the wing nuts who spin conspiracy theories about 9/11 are actually right wing nuts, not left wing nuts. Neither the world nor the US is divided into Right and Left (whatever those terms mean – they sure as hell don’t mean what they meant back in the late 60s). Stick to your second paragraph which is grounded in reality.

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